Golden rays from the sun warm your salt-kissed body as you lather up sunblock onto your exposed skin. To your left, the chirpy smile of your dive buddy greets you as you perkily chime in that you’re excited about the impending dive. The ocean’s blue has never looked bluer; the sea animals are out in force, eager to welcome us land-dwellers into their domain. They would smile if they had the facial muscles capable of doing so. After a round of equipment checks, we fin up and do a back-roll off the boat, and plunge into the sanguinely beautiful aquatic world, surrounded by more colors than mother nature remembered she had.
Except that was all in the introductory video to scuba diving for the first lesson I had to sit through for the Basic Open Water course I attended earlier this July. To my left was my boss who was the one that invited me on this trip, and to my right was a Norwegian man who was backpacking through Asia and was learning to dive because his girlfriend already brandished an Advanced Open Water license. And then there was me; the type of person who worries whether you, the reader, knows that when I say “diving”, I mean scuba-diving, and not gracefully falling off a fiberglass plank five meters above sea-level.
As an introverted person, none of the marketing material by PADI interested me when it came to make the decision to go for this course. In fact, when my boss asked me if I’d like to go with him, my real intention was to get away from people. Ironic you might think, because I went with my boss, but he’s one of the people I trust enough to spend some time with, but that’s only half true. Also, for all intents and purposes, we can treat my boss as my friend when we’re outside of workplace scenarios, because we’re twenty-first century like that. I’ll still refer to him as my boss throughout this article though.
My boss is an extroverted person, and gets his energy by being around people, and perhaps being in social situations, whereas I get my energy back by being by myself. So I trust him enough to go somewhere with him, but not when I get dragged into social situations with him and am expected to do social things when I’d rather be in bed, reading, while waiting for the next dive. Still, I can be a team player.
Anyway, as part dive lesson, part holiday, some amount of socializing was to be expected. But we should concentrate on the diving part of this story. After learning all the components of being a competent diver (ie. I won’t drown myself, or if I find my equipment failing, I have a higher chance of survivability by engaging one of the many drills I’ve learned), I can say with some confidence, that I would do this again. It’s a strangely calming experience, not because of all the fishes and sea-life that you may or may not get to see, but the exhilaration of being embraced by the void that surrounds you. With 70% of the earth being made of water, it’s actually pretty arrogant that sentient land-dwellers such as us, think that we are the center of our worlds, much less our universe.
Whilst beneath the weight of water pressure, my favorite moments were when we would swim past the coral reefs and when you looked down, you wouldn’t see anything else but the blackness of the ocean’s seemingly infinite depth, and as you looked outwards, the nothingness that confronted your senses and ego.
We are truly alone
Yes, it was a fabricated experience. I was with other people at the time, but without the use of our larynx and vocal cords, we had to rely on pre-determined hand gestures to explain anything to our dive instructor or dive buddies. Communication became an efficient series of yes or no questions and yes or no answers. It didn’t require hazy soliloquy (as what I’m attempting now), just the most basic of prompts that allowed everyone to shut up, and swim. I could look at what I wanted, I didn’t have the need to explain to the person next to me, the profoundness of what I’d been experiencing, and I didn’t need to know what that other person had to say about the matter either. For as long as I could breath underwater, my introverted nature felt like it was in its natural habitat.
And then you look at your air gauge, just enough to turn around the way you came from, find the descent line and swim to the surface with some emergency reserves to spare. You treasure these last few moments by yourself, the void slowly loosening its grasp on your persons as you see more of the reef, more sea animals and more people, and the void disappears back from whence it came. But you know it’s waiting for you, in the same spot you left it. Perhaps I’ll be back.
And finally, as your feet touch dry land again and you take off your respirator, within ear-shot you hear the words fired in your vicinity, “Wasn’t that amazing?”
Yes, yes it was amazing. And you smile, say something that you don’t remember, and write this recount two months later.
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